I’m going to be honest with you. I’ve never understood why or how people can live with just plain sheets, three books on a desk, and a black lamp. Some people might say I’m extra. I mean, I won’t deny it. But throughout my three years at BU, I’ve had a great time putting up decorations of my favorite things and creating a space that I love coming home to every night after a long day of class and work. One really common misconception about my decorations is that I spent a ton of money in order to put everything together, but that’s just all false! I paid for all of my decorations myself, and as you know, #brokecollegegirl so these options are all super affordable! I also recycle decorations from year to year, which saves me a ton of money because I am not shopping like crazy every September.
Marble contact paper
This is probably the one trick that everyone asks about the first time they step into my room. Since freshman year, I was inspired by my friend who attends the other BU (what’s up Ally!) who did this when she moved in. I used to get my marble contact paper from Lowe’s and actually pack it in my suitcase from home, but now I found that Target has rolls as well! I purchased this one and this one this one for my apartment currently. My biggest tips for putting the contact paper on is to cut it beforehand, use the grid on the back, and use an ID card to smooth out bubbles. If you can’t smooth them out, take a thumbtack and poke a microscopic hole to get the air out that way!
I always thought it was B.S. that people put their wall art in frames, but it actually makes SUCH a big difference and makes your space feel more like home. The dollar store is actually just two blocks from where I live, so I get gold frames from there and print out designs I made on Canva. You can get super creative with this because you can literally print anything out and frame it for a polished look.
Clear your desk
Since freshman year, I’ve always taken the desk hatch off my desk. The desk hatch is the shelf thing that most dorm desks come with, and most people will store books or decor on it. I promise you, after I’ve done this and told my friends to do this, not one friend has kept it on. When you take the desk hatch off, it opens up so much more space on your desk and makes it feel less claustrophobic and more inviting to do work on. You might wonder, where do I keep the hatch then? I’ve put it under my bed or in my closet as a shoe rack, wherever space allows!
Get a rug
I don’t care who you are, or what your style is. You can benefit from a rug. Rugs transform space instantly, help make cleaning for you easier, and make a great landing spot for your feet when you come home. Avoid white rugs, because although they will look nice the first few weeks you get them, they inevitably will start turning other colors. My go-to is a grey rug, because it literally never gets dirty, and doesn’t close in a space like a black rug would. If you’re feeling more fun, get a patterned rug. This is the only exception of having a lighter rug, because if there is a darker colored pattern on it, dirt will look less obvious. Also, don’t be afraid to have more than one rug in a room! It helps you separate spaces. For example, I have a smaller, shag rug right by my bed for my feet when I wake up, but a larger area rug right next to it.
Wheels change your life
I got a three-shelf cart my freshman year and I have used it every year since then. There are metal utility carts, wooden carts, metal carts, and larger carts, so get any one that fits your style and taste. You can use them as a bar cart, as a bedside table, or a makeup station. The options are endless and they’re super easy to take apart at the end of the semester.
Build your throw blanket collection now!
Throw blankets transform spaces, whether it’s your living room or your bed. They also keep you warm at night when the heat isn’t doing enough! They’re also great because they add a new layer to your bed and are easy to change up when you get bored, especially if you get a reversible one. My favorite throws are either fuzzy sherpa ones or knit ones.
Lighting is key.
Most of the time, the dorm lights are really harsh and not inviting at all. String lights are a popular option to spice up your space. I used to use these globe lights in white because I thought they were a little more unique than the standard christmas lights. Since sophomore year, I’ve also been loving the pendant light, which is literally just an Edison bulb in a hanging pendant light that you plug in. I use a command hook to hang it off the ceiling and think that it gives off a more sleek, clean look than all-around lights.
80% of the things I have on my space are things that remind me of someone, something, or a moment in time. I also love to display things that people gave me. Don’t get so focused on creating the “perfect aesthetic” and instead, choose some key colors to stick with and add in things that correspond and also remind you of the things you love most. For example, I bought this postcard when I visited the Camp display at the MET this past summer, the Kauai bracelet is something my mom got me as a surprise from our cruise trip to Hawaii, and the stone is from One Stone, a group I was in in high school that means a lot to me.
Keep it level!
There’s now a level right on your phone with the “Measure” app, so you don’t even need a friend around to give you a second eye when hanging things. Just make sure your phone has the rotation lock off.
Lastly, the most important part of your space is functionality. It might be a bit too late now to move stuff around, but if it’s not, consider it! Before I start unpacking in a new place every semester, I always assess the space to see how it may be more functional. The way the furniture was left by the previous person may not be the best way for the space to be optimized. For example, I always like to keep my dining table closest to the kitchen as possible. You don’t want to be walking through a labyrinth of couches to put your dinner on the table. Extra tip: in small spaces, you might be tempted to push all your furniture as close to the wall as possible to optimize space. It’ll actually look bigger if you pull each piece about 1 inch off the perimeter, because the space behind gives the illusion that there is more space than there actually is!
I hope these tips help you create a space you love! I’d love to see pictures of your decor and how you set everything up! Feel free to reach out to me firstname.lastname@example.org or via Instagram @genevelau!